Monday, May 21, 2018

Who Drew It Better? Tales vs. Baxter #1-5

By Siskoid and Russell
With the Baxter series, the Legion started telling stories for the direct market only. On the newsstand, the book changed its title to Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes, and for about a year, continued to tell new stories. But after a year, the newsstand kids would no longer be denied and Tales would begin reprinting the Baxter series. And aside from the first of these issues (above), the reprint would feature a new cover. And so the question before us is... Who drew the better cover?

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #2
(by Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt) 
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #327
(by Paris Cullins and Larry Mahlstedt)

Siskoid: Both covers show members of the Legion of Super-Villains, though not the exact same grouping. Cullins in Tales makes it clear that Nemesis Kid is in charge, showing him ripping up a Legion flag whereas Giffen was perhaps holding his cards closer to his vest. Giffen's is a bit of a mess, with the villains crowded into a small space, but is it more dynamic for it? Cullins' image is more traditional, better composed, but perhaps more boring? The Tales cover certainly suffers from over-saturated colors (and Mist Master being the wrong color), but I still give it my vote. What makes the scale tip in its favor? The Legionnaires in Neutrax's visor.

Russell: All good points, and I do love the reflection of the Legionnaires in Neutrax's visor. However, the over-use of the blue on Paris Cullins' Tales cover tilts it to Giffen's Baxter version to my eye. The green background of the Baxter version seems understated somehow, which just looks that much more interesting when contrasted to the over-the-top lightning from Lightning Lord.

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #3
(by Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt)
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #328 
(by Paris Cullins and Larry Mahlstedt)

Siskoid: Another Giffen cover that trades on chaos over composition, but the action is much clearer anyway. Wildfire has a nice spotlight, though Sun Emperor looks stupid being thrown back. Ultra Boy getting punched by Titania, and behind them Micro Lad getting his face kicked in by Violet is hella cool. And then it gets a little confused. The Chameleons, and Phantom Girl vs. Scarecrow seem flattened out and are dirtied up by even more fighting in the back, Lazon and Lightning Lass flying around as energy, etc. As for Cullins' version, I like the composition's energy, with the heroes flying towards the villains, but there are too few of the latter to really be an epic moment. And Cullins' figures are a little too loose, not just rushing, but rushed. And Brainiac 5's giant hands make it seem like the Hulk has crossed over... By a slim margin, I give it to the original.

Russell: This time around I would prefer to vote "Other," as I'm not a fan of either of these illustrations. I agree with Siskoid that the Giffen-Mahlstedt Baxter cover is a mess, but I think that was what they were going for, so it shouldn't necessarily be used as a criticism. However, I don't like Paris Cullins' version at all. The composition is not good, and the yellow coloring is too over the top. Maybe a darker blue or purple black would have been better? And I wonder if he had switched characters, and had a few Legionnaires about to be pummeled by the villains instead of vice-versa, if  it would have worked better?  I give it to the original just for capturing the chaos of battle well.

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #4
(by Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt)
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #329
(by Eduardo Baretto)

Siskoid: Karate Kid dies in this issue. The second cover tells us through copy, but the original makes a more powerful statement by just showing Val's hand bleeding on his Legion symbol. I guess the question you have to ask is whether it's more interesting to tease whether or not Karate Kid will die, or definitely say a Legionnaire will die but not tell us who. It's odd, really, because I feel like they're reversed. A year later, we might already know who was killed, so the second's cover copy is meaningless, while the first cover might have been used as a tribute to a character we know is fated to die. In any case, Barreto's montage of heads looking at shadows fighting is kind of ugly. Giffen definitely takes it.

Russell: This is interesting, Siskoid, because while I agree with you that these covers should have been published in reverse order, I am actually a fan of Eduardo Barretto's effort. I find the Giffen-Mahlstedt illustration overbearing for some reason. This might be one of those cases of the artist's comments altering the context of the Art, as I am not a fan of Giffen's disdain of Karate Kid. Sure, he wasn't the greatest Legionnaire, but he was a GOOD one. Bleeding on the Legion symbol just strikes me as the uglier image. I choose the Tales one, which is a great use of shadow in the cause of suspense. (By the way, is that Polar Boy in the crowd scene, blocked by Nemesis Kid, even though he wasn't a member yet? Funny.)

Legion of Super-Heroes (v3) #5
(by Keith Giffen and Larry Mahlstedt) 
Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes #330
(by Steve Lightle)

Siskoid: What is Giffen referencing here? I feel like I have it on the tip of my brain. Is it just Lady Justice? The Medieval regalia fits Projectra as a character, and she is the avenger in this story. Not quite the body count suggested by that pile of bodies, of course. But as of the third issue, this was Steve Lightle's book to draw, and he's a great cover artist, where Giffen is always at least a little off-kilter. So let Lightle be Lightle, and with the reprints, he got a second chance. The fights we see are color-coded for best results and I love love love the treatment on Projectra, a skull in her eye, perfect for the "Eye for an Eye" title... It's Tales for me!

Russell: Totally agree! The Baxter cover always reminded me of Joan of Arc for some reason, and here again we get a scene that is NOT actually in the story. The Legionnaires in the foreground are a bit too cartoony for me, too. I think Steve Lightle's version, on the other hand, is pure joy. The shadowing on Queen Projectra alone is worth the price of the comic. In fact, I think I do own all of the Steve Lightle Tales just FOR the cover art....!

And that's the opening arc with the Legion of Super-Villains. What did YOU think? Who drew the better covers for these stories? Let us know, and come back next time, for Baxter/Tales comparisons!

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